John 10 11-18
Jesus said to his disciples. “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him”.
“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognise my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd”.
“This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.”
So, who would be a good shepherd? Months at a time when you have a flock to protect from wolves, wild dogs, thieves and other shepherds; when you have to provide that flock with food, water, shelter; when you have to know the lie of the land and the cost of safe passage. Experience builds a good shepherd from one who has been there, done that, walked that, fought that and suffered that.
He has to do it for the least as well as the most valuable of his flock and he has to put them first over and over again, so that they are safely delivered to his Lord’s enclosure. This is an image of a fierce man; but you will not get sheep to obey through fear. A fat, healthy sheep depends on being part of a flock; of feeling safe; of being cared for. So there is another side to the shepherd – the mother – who imprints his voice, his smell on the young lambs by being there at the birth, by carrying them around with him. He lives in and among them; knowing them intimately. As we wish to be known.
All we have to do is to listen to his voice.